Study Shows Many Lack Trust Of Media's Presidential Coverage

This story was written by Katharine Lackey, Daily Collegian
A new poll indicates a lack of trust in media coverage of the 2008 presidential race with respondents saying it focuses too much on trivial information, embarrassing incidents, candidates' mistakes and negative advertisements, drawing mixed reaction within the Pennsylvania State University community.

Russ Eshleman, senior lecturer of journalism, called the survey "sad" and "unfortunate" because in his opinion, he said, the media has been properly covering the presidential campaign.

"Whenever a candidate has announced any sort of policy program ... the media has covered that and not only has the news media covered it, it's analyzed it and put it in perspective," he said.

"People are getting very complete coverage at this point."

The poll, which was conducted by Harvard University, found that 64 percent of respondents do not trust the media's presidential campaign coverage.

Alex Weller, the Penn State College Libertarians president, said the media picks and chooses which candidates to focus on.

"The media inherently tries to drive up its own ratings," he said. "They're trying to support candidates that are going to have a good fight."

Enrique Ortiz, Penn State College Democrats president, however, said media coverage has been fair thus far.

"A lot of the trivial issues in the campaign go back to what people are interested in," he said. "It's very supply and demand, and the media covers what its readers want to know."

Kori Britton (junior-biobehavioral health) said the media can report too much on trivial issues, but that embarrassing moments humanize presidential candidates.

"It makes them seem like they're more like us," she said.

Trivial issues do dominate media coverage, said Kristin Wielkiewicz (senior-kinesiology).

"With presidential campaigns, they try to dig up all they can ... or they stretch the truth," she said. "I don't think they should focus on stuff from the past that doesn't pertain to [candidates] becoming president."

Michael Hogan, communication arts and sciences professor, wrote in an e-mail that the recent poll is just one of many indicating distrust in the news.

Hogan wrote that he thinks that the media is guilty of trivializing political campaigns and focuses "on the 'horserace' and the negative 'gotcha' moments and fails to inform the public about where candidates stand on the important issues of the day."

But, Eshleman said, it is "incumbent" upon the media to report on negative ads and discuss embarrassing moments.

"They have to act as a truth squad," he said.

"You're telling readers or viewers what these candidates are saying ... I believe that we should write everything and let the public decide," he added.

The poll also found that a majority of respondents -- 61 percent -- thought the media was politically biased: 40 percent of those said it was too liberal and the remaining 21 percent indicated it was too conservative.

Thirty percent said the media was not biased, and 9 percent did not know.

"I think there's some that are right-leaning and some that are left-leaning," Jason Ploppert (junior-crime, law and justice) said. "There's a bias on both sides so it cancels itself out."

Eshleman said he believes reporters are "equal opportunity critics."

"We're out to get everybody," he said. "We're out to treat everybody equally."
© 2007 Daily Collegian via U-WIRE